Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Case for Third Generation Transformers

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the story of a guy defending his world and his girlfriend (or should that be the other way around) from a horde of evil mechanical aliens that want to enslave humanity.  And already, there is a problem.

Because of course, Transformers movies, for me at least, should be about, well, the Transformers.  And Transformers: Dark of the Moon starts off that way with an impressive spaceship chase around Cybertron that I am sure would have looked even more spectacular in 3D.  And then the story turns into a re-inventing of the moon race as a trip to really get human hands on some alien technology.  And then it turns to Sam and his girlfriend.  And his job woes.  And his parents.  And the movie's pace turns glacial.

Apparently, Michael Bay wanted this to be a human story rather than a machine story, but the problem with that is that 3D glasses can't make the human characters three dimensional, whereas they can turn special effects into something magical.  For example, while no cliché character is left unturned, Bay has found new ways to visually amaze.  Not only were the action sequences so impressively nonsensical that they would be offensive were this a film that was actually designed to follow some kind of logic (here they can just be enjoyed for the escapist rubbish that they are), but I could also imagine the tenderly filmed arse (and other bodily attributes) of perma-tanned Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in her incredibly short, tight and white outfits might have earned an "R" rating for the 3D version.

The human hero of the film, Sam (Shia LaBeouf), is a tanned man permanently misunderstood, underestimated, a complete klutz, and attracts only the most magnificent specimens of womanhood, even if his only way of expressing himself is through near-hysterical shouting.  All the time.  Speaking of tans though, every (human) character in this film seems to have had the need for several sunbed sessions written into their contract.  John Malkovich tops his own outrageous performance and skin colour with disturbingly white gnashers. 

Of course, for me, the real heroes are supposed to be the Autobots.  They are shown making the world safer by attacking "illegal" Middle East nuclear development sites (the definition of what constitutes "illegal" in this context is left purposefully murky) while keeping an eye out for the evil Decepticons, though they don't really do a terribly good job of the latter.  But then, only Optimus Prime is given anything resembling a character, so when he is not around, the other Autobots just tend to talk sassily to each other and come across as really annoying.

The great Leonard Nimoy takes on the role of Sentinel Prime, and there are a couple of Star Trek references along the way that show that the filmmakers were thrilled to have him on board.  Sentinal Prime is the creator of a transportation device called a Space Bridge which, on reflection and when used, makes no sense whatsoever, though it does create very pretty light effects.  In fact, all the special effects are pretty special, though there is a good whack of (apparently) real stunt work to counter all the digital magic.

But, as much as it looks amazing, after the first fifteen minutes or so, I found myself regularly checking my watch.  The film runs at 2.5 hours, but it feels at least twice that long, with many meaningless slow motion shots and a fairly random visit to a Russian gambling house.  And I never really understood how secret the existence of the Autobots was.  But then, I didn't understand the criminal underuse of Alan Tudyk either.

Verdict:  Transformers: Dark of the Moon is definitely not more than meets the eye, but what meets the eye is big, explosive and impressive.  What meets the brain will really depend on the type of person you are, and for me, the overwhelming impression was one being in the back seat of a slow moving autobot and every few minutes and asking "are we there yet?".  6 energon cubes out of 10.


Kiwi in Zurich said...

6 out of 10, so on balance you'd recommend going to see the film than not? I don't really get that from your review and like the second part, wasn't going to subject myself to it....

R said...

Hmmn, now you mention it, I do think I might have been overly generous with my judgement there. If you want to see this movie, it really should be seen on the big screen; and visually, it is impressive. Storywise though... nah.


Off-Black said...

Brilliantly vitriolic take on the film here: